Gucci owner Kering SA has shaken up the relatively staid world of the corporate boardroom by appointing Emma Watson, the British actress, as a non-executive director. But the recruitment of the Harry Potter star isn’t celebrity window dressing: Watson is a champion of sustainable fashion, so her advice to the French luxury behemoth will be valuable.
Her every move is followed by the world’s media, and what she does will be associated with Kering from now on. She is a vocal equality campaigner, as was seen this week with her tweets of support for trans people.
But her values seem to gel with those of the company, and they certainly reflect those of the younger consumers with whom Kering is eager to connect. The owner of the Yves Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta brands has long put sustainability at the heart of its corporate strategy. Each year it produces an environmental profit-and-loss account that calculates the cost of the damage to the planet attributable to the company and its supply chain. For the past decade, green targets have been included in criteria for measuring performance and calculating executive bonuses.
Increasingly, many luxury shoppers care deeply about these issues. Younger generations place as much importance on what brands stand for as they do on their products. With people under 45 generating all of the growth in the industry, staying in tune with them is crucial.
Indeed, this is all part of a new mood of inclusivity in luxury, whether that’s embracing different cultures, sexuality or body shapes. Having diverse views on corporate boards can help promote this, and prevent some of the mistakes that have engulfed houses in the past, including at Gucci, which withdrew a sweater last year after it was criticized for resembling blackface.
Kering already had an impressive number of women on its board, and its latest appointments have further improved its diversity. Joining Watson will be Jean Liu, president of ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing, and Tidjane Thiam, who was the only Black chief executive officer among the biggest European banks when he ran Credit Suisse Group AG.
Rival LVMH has also taken steps to better reflect the values of its younger customers. Rather than hiring a fashion designer to create its first new fashion house for 30 years, it brought Rihanna’s Fenty label — which includes makeup and clothing — into its stable. The pop star has put diversity, including race, gender and body shape, at the heart of all her style and beauty endeavors. Her arrival also shows that, in the Instagram age, actresses and singers have the same fashion cred as designers.
With Kering and LVMH taking the lead on sustainability and diversity, expect others in the industry to follow suit.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)